Wittenborg's "Personalised Service" to Students Gives them Edge over Competition
How does a small, private institution like Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences keep on distinguishing itself in a market teeming with big, public universities and an avalanche of online study programmes?
This was one of the questions posed to Wittenborg CEO, Maggie Feng, guest on BNR Radio's Talkshow Groeihelden. Every week the show features different business owners who talk about how they attain growth in their sector. This week it was the turn of education. Feng's fellow guest was Tom Bos from NCOI's Online Academy, which offers local companies short, segmented training for their employees.
According to Feng, Wittenborg grew by 20% in 2018, attracting students from about 90 different nationalities. Yet, it harbours no ambitions to grow as large as the public universities, preferring instead to maintain an air of exclusivity, guaranteeing personal attention to students by capping class sizes at around 25.
"Growth cannot be infinite," Feng told show presenter, Meindert Schut. "We like the concept of a boutique university with around 2,000 – 3,000 students without compromising the quality of education at Wittenborg." This also gives the institution more agility when partnering with other institutions like the University of Brighton in the UK, which gives students the opportunity to obtain a double degree while studying also in other European cities.
"We have strict admission requirements, so 10–15% growth is already quite an achievement. We sell an experience to students – we want them to feel, see, taste what it really means to study abroad, yet feel at home."
Feng believes it is exactly in offering a very personal service to students that makes Wittenborg so attractive and gives them an edge over the competition. This service includes, for instance, guaranteeing students at least 5 months of accommodation while it is on public record that many other Dutch institutions struggle with this issue. But it also includes small, personal touches like a taxi service when students arrive at Schiphol airport, instead of leaving them to fend for themselves in a strange public transport system upon arrival.
Feng also spoke openly about the insecurities facing international institutions like Wittenborg in the face of Brexit, given its links with Brighton. "We shall have to wait and see how that plays out. To what extent, for instance, lecturers from Europe will be able to travel to Britain and vice versa, or what will be the rules for international students in terms of visas.''
Feng, a big believer in lifelong learning, also revealed she would love to do a PhD in education at some point which looks at inclusivity and diversity within the sector.
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press